Long before President Richard Nixon’s war on drugs, Kentucky was the largest source of hemp crops in the continental United States. The state began hemp cultivation in 1775 and remained a primary source of the plant well into 20th century, as indicated when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that most of the hempseed in the United States was produced in Kentucky.
The wave of anti-cannabis propaganda led to the eradication of hemp in the state in the late 1930s, despite a brief reprieve in the 1940s when Kentucky farmers were encouraged to grow hemp to prevent the import of jute from Asia.
Cannabis remained illegal in Kentucky until 2014, when hemp cultivation was permitted by the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. The same year, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear signed SB 124, a law that allowed patients to use non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) products with a physician’s written order. This law represents the latest cannabis legislation in the state.
Three further attempts by Kentucky state legislators failed to legalize medical cannabis: both SB 40 and HB 3 in 2015, and HB 166 in 2018. On the federal level, the 2018 Farm Bill, signed by President Donald Trump on December 20, allows for the cultivation and manufacturing of industrial hemp, a crop commonly utilized to produce CBD products.
There is no regulatory body that governs cannabis growth, distribution, and sales in Kentucky. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture oversees the state’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program.
Any Kentucky resident with a physician’s written order may legally purchase hemp-derived CBD products over-the-counter where available in stores, as long as the product contains no more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) of THC or other cannabinoids.
The sale of cannabis containing trace amounts THC and other cannabinoids other than CBD are prohibited in Kentucky.
The sale or trafficking of fewer than eight ounces (8 oz.), or 226.8 grams, of cannabis is a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense punishable by up to one (1) year in prison and a $500 fine. Subsequent offenses for trafficking or selling less than eight (8) ounces of marijuana are a Class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to five (5) years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Products with trace amounts of other cannabinoids, including THC are prohibited. Possession of up to eight ounces (8 oz.), or 226.8 grams, of marijuana can lead to 45 days in jail and a $250 fine, while possession of greater than eight ounces (8 oz.) leads to felony charges that increase in severity with repeat offenses.
Individuals with a written order from a Kentucky-based physician may purchase CBD hemp oil products in a variety of consumption methods. Oils, tinctures, topicals, and vaporizers derived from hemp are among the most common.
The smoking or vaporizing of cannabis flower or cannabis-derived products that contain more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) of THC is prohibited.
Kentucky law does not place restrictions on where individuals may consume CBD.
Individuals with a physician’s written order may possess hemp-derived CBD products. SB 124 does not offer housing or employment protections for patients with a written order for CBD.
Only license holders registered with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) can grow hemp through the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program. Home cultivation of hemp without a license or marijuana is illegal.
Medical Marijuana Registry
Kentucky has not legalized marijuana for medical use.
Since there is no medical marijuana program in Kentucky, there are no qualifying conditions that allow patients to use medical cannabis products.
Under SB 124, an individual can become a patient by obtaining a recommendation for CBD use from a practicing physician, either at a hospital or at an associated clinic of a public university with a school of medicine. There are no age restrictions on who may consume medically recommended CBD products.
There is no registry application process for medical cannabis patients in Kentucky.
Kentucky law does not address or grant legal protections for caregivers.
There is no registry application process for medical cannabis caregivers in Kentucky.
Kentucky physicians must provide a written order for CBD for patients to purchase CBD products for medical use.
Since Kentucky has not legalized cannabis for medicinal use, registered medical marijuana users have no option to purchase their medicine within the state. Further, out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders are not protected by their status as a registered patient for the possession or consumption of medical cannabis.
Hemp growers are required to test their plant material extracts to determine the THC content of each final batch produced. The lab test results must confirm that the extract and final product contains no more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) of THC content. Growers are required by law to retain their lab test results and make them readily available to the KDA and law enforcement officials for a minimum of three (3) years.
Licensing for Growers, Manufacturers, Processors, Retailers
Individuals and organizations must apply to the KDA for a license to grow hemp under the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program. Only individuals with a license may grow hemp, as long as lab testing proves the plant matter contains less than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) of THC content.
This page was last updated on February 7, 2018.